Recap of first round of budget discussions

Last Friday through yesterday, the Council held marathon Budget Committee meetings to walk through the Mayor’s proposed budget, discuss issues, and propose changes. Here’s what’s on the table.

The Council members went department-by-department, finishing up on Tuesday afternoon with inter-departmental efforts and cross-cutting issues. I’ve provided links to the Council’s briefing memos to accompany each section.

At this point in the budget development process, Council members are throwing all of their ideas out there so their staff can develop them and their colleagues can discuss them. Many are still half-baked, and plenty won’t make the final cut since the amount of money being asked for is far greater than the amount available to spend. Don’t assume anything you read below will survive to the final 2018 budget.


Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD)

OPCD, which handles long-range planning particularly around land use, has been up to its neck in HALA and the MHA program since its creation in 2016. Its budget is largely unchanged from the endorsed budget last year.

OPCD continues to work on a program for assessing impact fees on new development projects. Whether that continues depends on who is elected Mayor next month.

Council member proposals related to OPCD include:

  • Putting a proviso in place on community planning work until OPCD provides a list to the Council of its priorities for such work in a formal work program. This is district-based representation in action; Juarez and Herbold in particular want to ensure that neighborhoods in their districts are getting attention from OPCD before light rail arrives and organic growth and development explode.
  • O’Brien is proposing spending $10,000 in one-time funds to set up a web site with information for homeowners on how to build an Accessory Dwelling Unit (a “mother-in-law apartment” or a “backyard cottage.”
  • Bagshaw wants OPCD to work with other city departments on a plan for reducing alley congestion in the downtown core.
  • Harrell and Johnson are proposing funding pre-development and feasibility analysis for redevelopment of the 8-acre Goodwill site  on South Lane Street. Redevelopment plans have gone through two previous iterations before fizzling out.


Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI)

SDCI administers city ordinances dealing with land use, building codes, rental housing, and building construction. Of its $84 million proposed budget, almost $70 million is paid for by fees collected. SDCI is proposing to raise its fees this year, and to increase the limit in the emergency tenant relocation assistance program.

Its 2018 budget includes $200,000 to establish the Tenant Landlord Resource Center, intended to be a clearinghouse of information for tenants and landlords on their rights and responsibilities under the city’s rental regulations.  The TLRC would also conduct proactive outreach to tenants and landlords to help educate them. An issue for several Council members is whether the TLRC should do the outreach itself, or whether it should leverage community-based organizations to do it, especially to underrepresented communities.

Council members are proposing several additional items:

  • Council member Herbold is proposing an enhanced program for monitoring vacant buildings;
  • Herbold is also proposing that the city distribute best practices on the use of leaf blowers to reduce noise and emissions;
  • O’Brien proposes $200,000 of grants to community-based organizations for outreach to tenants;
  • Harrell and Bagshaw propose adding funding for outreach to owners of unreinforced masonry buildings.


Seattle Center

The big-ticket item at Seattle Center is the proposed redevelopment of Key Arena by OVG, which would hit both the revenues ($2.7 million) and expenses ($2.2 million) of Seattle Center if construction begins next October. They are maintaining a reserve fund balance of $2.5 million to mitigate the potential $500,000 deficit. Since the MOU isn’t signed yet, it’s not in the 2018 budget proposal; they would address that in the first quarterly budget update next year after the ink is dry.

Seattle Center is also looking to spend $500,000 to allow Monorail riders to use their ORCA cards to pay. They expect it would increase ridership by 135,000 to 150,000 rides per year, but revenues would drop by about $96,000 per year.

They also plan to spend $1 million to update the Seattle Center Master Plan, doubling the original funding. The plan would be done in coordination with Seattle Public Schools, which is looking at siting a high school there, and with the Uptown community.


Department of Neighborhoods

Over the past few years, the Department of Neighborhoods has seen a lot of change in both its mission and its workload. It ended most of its top-tier support for the District Council system, but picked up support for the new Community Involvement Commission and Seattle Renters Commission.  Also, the DON is expected to play a large role in supporting the recent change to the Design Review program that required large projects to engage with local communities. It gained some capacity when it reduced its support for District Councils, but it hasn’t received any additional resources to help it manage its new responsibilities.  The Mayor’s proposed budget doesn’t add any additional resources, but the Council may consider doing so.

Also, the P Patch program may move from DON to the Parks Department; it’s assumed the six people who support that program would move with it.

Council member Gonzalez is proposing adding $250,000 to the DON budget to create a “non-profit hub” to help develop leadership and capacity in nonprofit organizations in southeast Seattle led by immigrants and refugees. There was broad support among the Council members for this, though Bagshaw noted that it overlaps with an HS program and Harris-Talley urged that it be sustained funding for at least five years.


Parks and Recreation

Parks is a huge department, with an operating budget of $169 million and a capital budget of $92 million. The operating budget includes ongoing funding for cleaning up homeless encampments in parks and open space managed by the department. Other budget highlights:

  • $440,000 to support development of parks on land-banked sites and Smith Cove;
  • $270,000 for part-time operation of the Lake City Community Center (up to 25 hours per week), and $3 million for improvements to the facility between 2018 and 2019;
  • $250,000 for operations and maintenance at newly opened or renovated parks and the new trails at the Arboretum;
  • $140,000 for development and operation of a new off-leash area;
  • $2.15 million for improvements at Magnuson Park Community Center;
  • $1.2 million for ADA improvements at park facilities and community centers;
  • $150,000 for space planning in anticipation of the P Patch program moving from DON to the Parks Department;
  • fee adjustments for the use of Parks facilities and services;

Council member proposals include:

  • Johnson is proposing additional staffing and enhanced lighting at Magnuson Park, a community demand in the aftermath of the Charleena Lyles shooting.
  • Johnson is also proposing $80,000 to replace all of the department’s gas leaf blowers with electric ones.
  • Johnson is proposing $45,000 in ongoing funding to continue summer operation of five wading pools in Seattle parks.




Overall the SDOT budget is down $93 million, largely due to delayed capital spending as three major projects’ construction schedules have been pushed out: the Fairview bridge, the Center City streetcar, and the Lander Street overpass. In addition, projects funded by the Move Seattle levy have had “ramp-up issues.”

SDOT has proposed a $3 million pilot project to allow for remote operations of one of the five drawbridges that the city operates. They figure that if they can eventually remotely operate all five, they can consolidate staff and save up to $1 million per year on personnel costs. Council member Johnson rightly raised suspicion about this plan, which would have huge upfront costs and take fifteen years to pay it back.

SDOT has moved forward design of 5 of the 7 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes supported by Move Seattle. However, 80% of the overall project costs are dependent on external funding, and there continues to be uncertainty in expectations for federal transportation funding under the Trump administration. Johnson stressed that the two tied to opening of light rail stations in the north end (the Roosevelt and Market/45th routes) need to stay on schedule.

The big debate in the SDOT budget is the Center City Streetcar. The First Hill and South Lake Union streetcars have not met ridership (or revenue) goals. The First Hill streetcar operation is subsidized by Sound Transit through 2023, but it is unclear whether that funding commitment will be renewed past that. The Center City Streetcar line has received $50 million in federal funding, and is waiting for delivery of the remaining $25 million promised; meanwhile it needs another $50 million of local funding, which the city would issue bonds for (backed by parking tax revenues). But several Council members are questioning the rationale behind the line: whether it will require dedicated street lanes to keep it out of traffic, whether fixed transit routes are a good idea vs. more flexible bus routes, and whether the project contributes to the city’s equity goals vs. investing in transportation in areas of the city with economically disadvantaged communities. To that last point, the question remains whether the Center City Streetcar is primarily a transportation project, or an economic development project along that corridor that would deliver more people to businesses and storefronts. On the flip side, Johnson pointed out the rarity of the federal government contributing more than 10% of the cost of a project, and on this one its contribution is in the upper 40’s — but the feds would want the money back if the city paused or stopped the project. He also noted the longer-term plan: that when light rail expands, there will be a “major ripple effect” on bus lines, leaving a gap in bus routes to and through downtown; the Center City Streetcar is part of the plan to address that gap.   All that said, there was clear skepticism from several Council members, notably Sawant, Harris-Talley, and Herbold, with O’Brien and Bagshaw noncommittal, Juarez and Gonzalez silent, and Johnson and Harrell the only two vocal supporters.  Don’t be surprised if the Council backs away from the project.

A bit of good news: the red-light and school zone cameras brought in $1.4 million more than expected, which partially offsets the $2.3 million the Council allocated to help pay for the Seattle Public Schools shift to a 2-tier schedule.

Notable proposals from Council members for changes to the budget:

  • O’Brien is proposing a fee for Transportation Management Plans required of larger development projects in order to fund monitoring and enforcement.
  • Johnson proposed a proviso on funds for the NE 43rd Street capital project next to the U District light-rail station, to condition the funds on a design that would close NE 43rd between Brooklyn and 15th Street.
  • Gonzalez proposed $500,000 for pedestrian improvements in South Park.


Seattle Public Utilities

SPU has one giant boat-anchor pulling it down: the Ship Canal Water Quality Project, which it is required to do under a consent decree with the U.S. EPA. Between that and related Combined Sewer Outflow projects, SPU will spend $494 million over the next six years. The total cost of the project ballooned by over 25% in the last year to $540 million, due to higher market costs for construction and “new scope to address increased stormwater flows.” SPU has engaged a 3rd party engineering firm to review the project, with a report due in February.

A smaller boat-anchor turns out to be the Move Seattle levy, because as SDOT tears up streets and realigns intersections, SPU must deal with underground water and sewer pipes. Sometimes this saves money as SPU can upgrade infrastructure while leveraging SDOT’s digging and repaving. But it forces SPU onto SDOT’s project schedule, which wreaks havoc with the utility’s long-term plans and its budget. The city is trying to get better at minimizing the negative impacts of this kind of coordination.

Together, these two have driven SPU’s planned rates up over the next several years.

Council member Herbold is looking at two legislative actions related to SPU:  investigating why the utility is so management-heavy (7.7 employees per manager, whereas the industry average for similar utilities is 10 to 15), and addressing an increase in wait times in SPU’s call center.


Finance and Administrative Services

FAS is the sprawling bureaucracy that handles customer services, regulation and oversight of businesses, city contracting, financial services, handling claims against the city, accounting and treasury services, managing the city’s employee retirement plans, building construction and maintenance for 150 facilities, and the city’s fleet of 4000 vehicles.

FAS has proposed increasing a number of regulatory fees, many of which they claim have not been adjusted for 5 to 20 years. It will also increase the animal shelter fee and the tradeshow participant fee.

FAS pans to spend $956,000 in 2018 on plans for the Waterfront Local Improvement District.

With the regulatory scheme for short-term rentals about to be passed by the Council, they need to decide on appropriations for implementing the required license as well as the short-term rental tax.

There were three proposals from Council members related to FAS:

  1. Council member Sawant is proposing to strip $11.6 million related to the North Precinct police station and redirect, if possible, the funds toward the Equitable Development Initiative (EDI). At this point the city’s Capital Improvement Plan no longer includes the construction of a new North Precinct station; instead, the funds were intended to make some upgrades to the existing North Precinct station, and for planning a new go-forward strategy to satisfy SPD’s long-term needs as per the Council’s direction. Sawant’s plan would de-fund both those activities. On top of that, the city is unclear whether the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) funds allocated to fund this work can legally be repurposed for the EDI. Expect further heated debate on this issue.
  2. Council member Sawant is also proposing $200,000 to be spent on a feasibility study for a new municipal bank. The City Attorney’s Office sent a memo to the Council outlining legal and financial issues with a municipal bank, and Sawant intends the study to dig in to those.
  3. As has been reported in the new, Council members O’Brien, Harris-Talley, and Sawant are proposing a new tax on businesses of just under five cents per employee-hour worked, or approximately $100 per year per full-time employee. It would only apply to businesses with gross proceeds over $5 million per year, roughly the largest 10% of Seattle businesses. The city calculates that it would raise $25 million per year from this new tax. The revenues would be used for affordable housing, expanding the LEAD program, increasing homelessness services, and services for Seattle’s youth. According to the proposal’s sponsors, some of the Council members have suggested doubling the tax to $200 per employee per year, which would raise about $50 million per year. Council member Harris-Talley spoke to the importance of having an ongoing source of revenues to fund these programs rather than relying on one-time appropriations.  The proposal isn’t without its detractors, though; the biggest criticism is that it taxes businesses based on size of revenues, not profits. While O’Brien, Sawant and Harris-Talley claim that they are asking the companies that have benefitted the most from Seattle’s economic boom to help pay for the negative consequences of that boom, it misses the target: a company with $5 million of revenues but losing money pays, but a profitable company with $4 million of revenues does not. O’Brien said that he was willing to look at better ways to do it, but while the city has data on gross receipts, it doesn’t have data on profits.  Harrell questioned how the intended beneficiary program were chosen, and complained that the budget process is too short to be an adequate window of time to collect input from the people who would pay the tax. Johnson argued that they should look at all the possibilities to raise more money, not just an employee head tax. He also noted that the 2018 proposed budget has a 5.4% increase in tax revenue while the CPI is 2.4%.  Sawant noted that it’s a progressive tax and in her opinion very modest; she went on to suggest that her colleagues’ critiques were not truly technical inquiries but instead were motivated by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s stated opposition to the tax. Harrell responded that they need to have the debate without questioning each other’s motives.


Human Services Department (HSD)

HSD is a flash-point for so many different policy debates. It’s also an enormous, very expensive department, with a proposed budget of $168 million, a 9% increase from last year’s endorsed budget. And it proposes adding 31 positions, a 9.5% increase. A large portion of those new hires would go to the Aging and Disability division of HSD, which provides direct services and receives $2.9 million in new federal and state funding next year.

The budget proposes reorganizing the Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens into a new Age-Friendly Seattle Office under HSD. It would discontinue several existing programs under the old MOSC (such as employment services) and switch the office to a policy focus.

A big issue for HSD is the Results-based Accountability (RBA) system it has begun incorporating into contracts. Mayor Burgess has proposed legislation mandating the RBA system for all HSD contracts, as well as use of pay-for-performance metrics in which a percentage of payments to a contractor (typically 10% of the contract value) are dependent upon the contractor meeting specific performance goals.

The proposed budget also adds staffing for data analysis and grant processing. HSD argues it needs these five positions because of the RBA system.

HSD also has its own performance goals written into the budget, that touch on several of its programs. Of particular note are goals related to homeless shelters: dropping the average length of stay from 45 days to 20 days, and increasing the exits to permanent housing from 13.6% to 40%. Sawant, Herbold, and Bagshaw were all very skeptical that HSD could meet those very ambitious goals, especially since the underlying problem is a lack of affordable housing — and that problem won’t get solved in the next year.

HSD’s budget for addressing homelessness  is $58.8 million, an increase of $8 million over last year’s endorsed budget. $4.8 million is added for continuation of the Pathways Home program. $936,000 is additional funding for the three new sanctioned encampments at Georgetown, Myers Way and Licton Springs, while $272,000 is additional for the camps in Ballard, Interbay and Othello.

$300,000 is added for finally getting the Housing Resource Center, the successor to the Landlord Liaison Program, running. King County and United Way are also contributing funds.

$1.6 million in additional funding goes to the Compass shelter at the First Presbyterian Church.

$23,000 of new funding is proposed for a pilot HMIS scan card system, along with $100,000 of repurposed funds. The system is intended to help create a more efficient and “person-centered” system for delivering services to homeless people by allowing for consistent data access across multiple service providers interacting with the same person, but concerns have been raised about homeless persons’ right to privacy. Council member Gonzalez noted that the legislation recently passed through her committee related to surveillance technology would apply to the HMIS scan card system.

The HSD budget has inspired 35 separate budget change proposals from Council members. They include:

  • funding for staff and counselors at every sanctioned homeless encampment;
  • $500,000 earmarked by Gonzalez and Sawant for building out the new Lazarus Day Center;
  • $1.87 million proposed by O’Brien for security, outreach, case management, amenities and utilities for people living in vehicles.
  • $588,000 earmarked by Gonzalez for the Accelerator YMCA and YouthCare Pathways programs;
  • $161,000 by Bagshaw for a dedicated buprenorphine prescriber as part of the Buprenorphine Pathways Project;
  • three different proposals related to setting up a “safe consumption site,” ranging from a feasibility study (Johnson and Juarez) to $2 million to go ahead and set it up (Sawant);
  • several proposals for programs and services to aid survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault;
  • several proposals to expand the LEAD program, which currently operates only in the East and West Precincts, to either the North and south precincts or throughout the entire city;
  • $350,000 by O’Brien to give transit passes to homeless persons to allow them to access service providers;
  • $324,000 by Gonzalez to support kinship families providing care for children and seniors;
  • $150,000 by Harrell for a feasibility study about providing supportive and secure housing alternatives to detention for non-violent offenders;
  • $200,000 by Harrell to support advocacy for parents trying to regain custody of their children from Child Protective Services;
  • A pair of proposals by Gonzalez, totaling $533,000, to implement Resolution 31775 to make immigrant victims, survivors and witnesses feel safer in reporting crimes to law enforcement;
  • $60,000 by Juarez and Bagshaw for delivery of senior services “without walls.” Juarez’s District 5 is the only district in the city without a senior center, thus the need to deliver the services “without walls.”


Homeless emergency response

Since the city’s emergency response to the homelessness crisis involves multiple city departments, the Council discussed it separate from individual departments’ budgets.

The budget proposes creating a central Homeless Emergency Response office, under FAS. That team would get its own dedicated 2000 square foot space, as it is currently housed in the Emergency Operations Center.

The Navigation Team’s funding also becomes permanent and ongoing, rather than the one-time funding in the 2017 budget. there was a fair amount of discussion of the Navigation Team, how effective the model is, and its “theory of change” that repeated, persistent outreach coupled with law enforcement can achieve results. What isn’t clear in that statement, as raised by Council member Herbold, is whether the objective of the Navigation Team is simply to relocate people (hopefully to a better place), or to provide services regardless of whether the city intends to relocate someone.  It is somewhat a moot point, since the Nav Team is currently directed to deploy only to sites where people need to be relocated. The City Auditor is currently reviewing the Navigation Team and is expected to release a report later this month.

Of course, that leads into the larger discussion of “sweeps” of unsanctioned encampments. Earlier this year the city updated its rules for conducting encampment removals, which most of the Council grudgingly accepted (not O’Brien or Sawant). but even with the new rules in place, there are two issues that loom large:

  • Is the city following its own rules in practice, and how is that compliance enforced and audited?
  • How is the city prioritizing encampments for outreach and removal?

On the first issue, former Mayor Ed Murray was forced to accept an ongoing role for the Office of Civil Rights in monitoring and auditing encampments. But since the SOCR reports to the Mayor, there is reason to doubt that in that role it is free from political influence and has the ability to openly criticize its peer departments involved in encampment removals. Further, SOCR has complained that it too has no insight into how prioritization of removals is done.

All of that is context into the proposals put forth by Council members:

  • Bagshaw proposes $150,000 to add a health professional to the Navigation Team;
  • Herbold proposes a Statement of Legislative Intent directing FAS to provide enhanced reporting to the Council on the Navigation Team, and a proviso on the Navigation Team budget until FAs delivers a plan for that reporting;
  • Sawant proposes additional funding for sanitation, portable toilets, and trash removal at unsanctioned encampments;
  • Sawant also proposes a proviso on the budget line-items currently funding encampment removals, prohibiting the city from “sweeping” people and their personal belongings. Harris-Talley supported this, noting that the city works counter to its own goals when service providers can’t find the homeless people they’ve been working with because they have been displaced.


Sweetened Beverage Tax

The soda tax is expected to raise $14.8 million in revenues in 2018, with declining revenues in future years as behaviors change. This part of the budget discussion was focused on how the city should spend those revenues.

The ordinance earmarked some one-time expenditures, including:

  • one-time costs for administering the tax;
  • up to $5 million as a one-time contribution to an endowment for the 13th Year Promise Scholarship program;
  • up to $1.5 million for job retraining and placement programs for workers adversely impacted by the tax;
  • funding to construct or enhance classroom facilities for use by the Seattle Preschool Program.

The rest of the funds are limited in use to the following, in explicit order of priority:

  1. Expanding access to healthy and affordable food, closing the food security gap, and promoting healthy food choices;
  2. Evidence-based programs that improve social, emotional, educational physical and mental health of children;
  3. Administrative costs for assessing and collecting the tax;
  4. Resources for the Office of Sustainability and the Environment  and the Sweetened Beverage Tax Advisory Board;
  5. The cost of evaluations by the City Auditor of the tax’s impact and the programs it funds.

Setting these priorities was no easy task; Juarez pushed hard for food-related programs since the tax is on food products and is intended to improve health and nutrition, while then-Councilmember Burgess and Harrell pushed hard for their pet cause, education programs.

The Advisory Board isn’t up and running yet, so the Mayor’s proposed budget was written without its input.

With Burgess now in the Mayor’s office and Harrell back in his seat as Council President, it should be no surprise that education programs came out on top in the proposed spending plan for the soda tax revenues. Here’s the breakdown:

The $5.8 million of funding going to DEEL will primarily be used to provide ongoing funding to programs that received one-time funding in 2017. The $2.7 million left “TBD” will wait for the Advisory Board to render views on how it should be spent.

Harrell, anticipating an argument, pre-emptively defended the education investments, arguing that a tremendous amount of community input led to the choice of those programs. He also noted that by his count 9 of the 11 Advisory Board members are food advocates so he expects the bulk of the “TBD” funds to go to food programs — tipping the balance back toward food and nutrition programs.

Juarez was having none of this. She focused on the critical need for getting food to families that don’t have any, and pointed out that children can’t learn and can’t behave in class when they are hungry.  She also noted that food banks go through a regular RFP process to get access to funding from the city, where DEEL doesn’t, and that RFP process doesn’t distribute sufficient funds to address the need in the community (she handed out this spreadsheet of 2015 distributions to support her case). Juarez pointed out that there are only two farmers markets that operate year-round in the city, so the Fresh Bucks program is of limited value to people in our city who can’t afford to buy food.  She offered a proposal to reprogram much of the education spend over to food and nutrition programs as per the stated priorities, and suggested that DEEL programs be funded by the Families and Education Levy, and My Brother’s Keeper be funded by the Parks Department. This debate was not settled, so expect it to resurface before the budget is done.

Other Council member proposals:

  • A proposal by O’Brien to direct $325,000 to the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, to support the Environmental Justice Committee and for strategies to address sustainability throughout the city — O’Brien’s pet causes.
  • A proposal by Herbold directing the Office of Economic Development to explore implementation of the Healthy Foods Here pilot project.
  • A proposal from Johnson for a pilot program to provide ride share vouchers to residents in low-income housing located in food deserts in order to assist them in reaching grocery stores and farmers markets.


Seattle Police Department

SPD’s proposed $331 million budget is nearly identical to last year’s endorsed budget, with 84% of the budget covering personnel costs. The only significant difference is a boost to the Office of Police Accountability in response to the new police accountability legislation. Notable changes:

  • additional staffing for the 911 Communications Center;
  • $252,000 for implementation of the recently-passed surveillance legislation;
  • hiring of three new “complaint navigators” within OPA;
  • hiring of a new “OPA mediator” as a pilot program;
  • $182,000 additional for the Navigation Team.
  • The department continues to be on track to add 200 officers from its 2014 staff levels by 2020. It expects to bring on 42 new officers in 2018, which will bring it to 158 of the 200.

Managing overtime remains one of the biggest issues for SPD. Since 2010, overtime use has skyrocketed, and SPD consistently under-budgets for overtime and then comes back to the Council after the money has been spent to request additional funding.

Here’s a breakdown of the 2016 spend, which went 29% over budget:

54% comes from regular duties; much of the remainder is for events — both scheduled and unscheduled (such as protests). Last year the City Auditor looked at the issue and made several recommendations. SPD reports that it has implemented nearly every recommendation, though it’s too soon to know what effect it will have on overtime spend. Gonzalez noted that the city is required by statute to have a certain number of officers at any given time, which ties its hands somewhat, but Seattle is still an outlier in overtime use compared to the other “west coast seven” cities. she also noted that the auditor’s report gave a thorough diagnostic of problems, such as lack of record keeping and supervisor controls; rather than doing another study, she would like to make sure that SPD is making progress on fixing the known problems.

Council member proposals:

  • Several proposals by Herbold and Gonzalez related to recommendations from the South Park Public Safety Task Force, including $75,000 for a public safety coordinator and $500,000 for street improvements to enhance safety.
  • A proposal by Sawant to tie three quarters of SPD’s budget to adherence to the principles in the Bias-Free Policing ordinance. One quarter of the budget would be held until SPD produced a metric whereby bias-free policing can be objectively measured and the Council reviewed, edited and approved it.  One half would be held until SPD provides evidence that it has achieved bias-free policing based on the approved metric and the Council agrees.
  • A proposal by Bagshaw to cost out providing smart phones to all on-duty officers.
  • A proposal, still in the works, by Harris-Talley to address the root causes of overtime over-expenditures.


Police Accountability

The Council walked through the three organizations that make up the new police accountability regime: the OPA (within SPD), the Office of Inspector General (OIG), and the Community Police Commission (CPC). The OPA and CPC already exist, but change somewhat under the new system, so the Council is reviewing all three from scratch to understand how to give them appropriate resources. There is great sensitivity toward not underfunding them, as that would be widely interpreted as a sign the city is not serious about police accountability.

The Mayor’s budget proposes:

  • CPC: $1.048 million, 6 FTEs;
  • OIG: $1.454 million, 4 FTEs;
  • OPA: $3.6 million, 21 FTEs.

Council member Gonzalez, who shepherded the legislation through, proposes adding another 3.5 FTEs and $175,000 for contractor funding to the CPC budget, and another 1.5 FTEs and $175,000 for contractor funding to the OIG budget. She also proposes adding 4 FTEs and $75,000 in training funds to OPA.

The CPC is particularly sensitive to how its staffing level compares to OIG, as a signal of whether the new CPC is just for show or is expected to have a meaningful and active role in the police accountability system.


Cross-cutting and miscellaneous issues

This is a hodge-podge of other issues and proposals for the smaller departments and for issues that cut across departments.

There are two proposed changes to the budget for the Department of Education and Early Learning:

  • $350,000 by Harrell to implement recommendations from the Our Best Advisory Council;
  • $200,000 by Gonzalez for supporting the pipeline of bilingual teachers.

The Office of the City Auditor gets a budget boost next year, nearly all related to its role in reviewing surveillance technology as required by the new ordinance passed by the Council. There are, however, five other Council-passed ordinances that require work by the City Auditor and are not funded:

There is one proposal for the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs: $125,000 by Herbold to expand the Ready to Work Program to southwest Seattle.

Despite an increasing workload at the Office of Labor Standards, the Mayor’s budget does not add any of the three additional staff it requested.

The Judgment and Claims Subfund went well over budget in 2017 (see this piece for a deeper dive). Early next year, several city departments will evaluate the way the fund is managed and budgeted for, with an eye to restructuring it.

There are two proposals for the Seattle IT Department related to municipal broadband:

  • Sawant proposes $5 million to implement a pilot project;
  • Johnson proposes $170,000 for a business and implementation plan.

Thee are two Council member proposals related to Seattle City Light:

  • a proposal by Herbold to remove the performance pay components of the compensation package for the SCL General Manager. That is currently the only department head position in the city that could use performance pay, and currently it is not being utilized.
  • a proposal by Sawant to eliminate all funding related to joining the Western energy Imbalance Market. See this post for background.

The Office of Housing has four Council member proposals:

  • $75,000 by Gonzalez for the Home and Hope Project;
  • $50,000 by O’Brien to explore and develop community ownership housing models;
  • $135,000 by Gonzalez to create a public database on the availability of affordable units produced by the MHA program;
  • $1.5 million by Bagshaw to develop a homeless youth opportunity center and housing project.

The Office of Civil Rights, as previously mentioned, is confronting the issue of its lack of independence from the rest of the executive branch as its auditing responsibilities grow and related to its role in driving departmental accountability for the Race and Social Justice Initiative.  It is undergoing a Racial Equity Toolkit analysis to help drive future decision-making on how to resolve this issue. Both Herbold and O’Brien have proposed budget additions to fund that work. In addition, Gonzalez and O’Brien propose $600,000 to continue Zero Youth Detention program grants, and $1.2 million for a “diversion consortium program” for youths up to 18 years old. Harris-Talley is proposing that SOCR look at ways that city commissions can provide input into the city’s budgeting process.

On behalf of the Office of Economic Development, Harrell proposes continuing another year of garbage cleanup in the Chinatown-International District. Also, Gonzalez proposed $200,000 to provide community-based capacity building for small businesses and local entrepreneurs.

The Seattle Municipal court has a “gem” of a program called the Court Resource Center, which provides “wrap-around” social services to Municipal Court clients and other individuals — 5000 unique contacts, the vast majority of which are unsheltered. To-date, the CRC has no dedicated staffing  and has been quietly carried along by the probation department. A recent Auditor’s Report detailed issues with the program due to lack of permanent staffing. Gonzalez proposes adding $334,000 and 3 FTEs to staff the CRC.

For the Seattle Fire Department, Bagshaw proposes $200,000 to fund peak-hour telephone triage nurses at the Fire Alarm Center to help divert “low acuity” calls to alternate resources, instead of sending aid cars out.

The renovation of the upper floors of King Street Station is $3.4 million over budget. The Council will need to decide how to handle that.

The next step in the Council’s budget process is for Council members to submit their budget proposals as official “green sheets” by 2:00pm tomorrow, for consideration as part of the Budget Chair’s Initial Balancing Package. The green sheets will be discussed next week.